It was a time when most of us were still too scared to enter the dark, and spiders were everywhere.
They were everywhere, including our own homes.
In the 1950s, researchers at the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) began investigating the potential of the scorpion’s venom to cause paralysis in humans, including humans who had been bitten by them.
The work, dubbed the “scorpion venom hypothesis”, had a big impact on how we understand spiders and how they function.
The theory went that the scorpions venom could cause paralysis and death in humans.
But a paper published in 2006, by researchers from the University of Iowa in Iowa City, the University at Buffalo, and the University College London, found that the theory was wrong.
“The venom hypothesis is based on a very weak premise: spiders don’t cause paralysis,” said Peter Diamandis, a University of Rochester neuroscientist and one of the authors of the paper.
“It’s based on faulty assumptions.”
Diamannis said that the study didn’t account for any of the other possible causes of paralysis, including allergies, depression, and obesity.
For example, the scorpional venom theory didn’t take into account that scorpions might not be as deadly as they are now.
“We didn’t know what the scorpors venom was,” Diamantis said.
“And then we learned from this paper that it was very, very weak.”
That weak assumption was that scorpion venom causes paralysis.
The study also found that many of the symptoms of paralysis in spiders were caused by other factors.
For instance, some of the spiders with the most severe paralysis symptoms were those with a history of severe allergies.
“They may have had a history that led to a history with allergies,” Dias said.
The scorpion venoms aren’t particularly lethal in humans (although, Diamanis said, they could be dangerous for other spiders).
They’re also not a major cause of spider deaths, Dias added.
“There are a number of other spiders out there that are more likely to cause death in people, and I don’t think this is a significant risk for spiders.”
Dias and his colleagues conducted a systematic review of all of the scientific literature on the scorpison venom hypothesis and found that “there is little evidence to suggest that [the scorpion-venom hypothesis] is a valid explanation for spiders and other arachnids.”
“We found that most of the published evidence supports the scorpION venoms hypothesis,” DIA researchers wrote.
“However, some evidence suggests that the venom hypothesis has important limitations.”
The scorpions hypothesis is not without its critics.
The researchers acknowledge that some of their findings are speculative.
For one thing, DIA did not conduct a systematic search for any previous studies that used the scorpione venom hypothesis.
And the researchers also acknowledge that their results could be influenced by the way the research was conducted.
“I don’t want to overstate the limitations of this research,” Diodi said.
For now, Diodis and his coauthors said they plan to continue investigating the scorpionic venom hypothesis further, but they aren’t ready to definitively dismiss it.
“In the future, we’re going to be exploring all of these things and trying to figure out if this really is the right answer,” Dios said.